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Plate tectonics is the theory that explains the movement of tectonic plates on the Earth. This theory is only accepted in 1960 by the scientific community. The Earth's crust is divided into tectonic plates. There are both continental and oceanic tectonic plates. The plates of crust "float" on the underlying plastic mantle. The movement of the Earth's plates is caused by convection currents in the Earth's mantle caused by the heat in the mantle.
The continental plates are lighter than the oceanic plates. As a result, in case of a collision the oceanic plate will go under the continental plate. In places where subduction of an oceanic plate occurs there is often a deep trench present. In collision zones of tectonic plates mountains are formed. Plate tectonics is also the cause of a major proportion of earthquakes and volcanic activity on Earth. An exception are the hotspots.
On Earth nine large distinct plates and many smaller and microplates occur. The movement of the plates can be as much of a few millimeters per year to 9 centimeters. In the course of the entire geological time, continents can therefore move to a different part of the Earth. In the geological past all continents on Earth repeatedly merged together and formed the Gondwana and Pangea continents.
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